49 thoughts on “Open Thread on Helen

  1. if a jew makes a remark about the land of israel belonging to the jews and the arabs needing to all get out, he gets to be foreign minister of israel.
    if a non-jew does the opposite, and says the jews should leave israel, we brand them an anti-semite and get them fired from their job.

  2. I love it how even a media pro like Helen will say the first dumb thing she thinks of – and on camera no less!
    Helen, you’ve been Macaca’d!
    Sigh. I actually believe that she didn’t mean it the way it came out. She was just pissed off that day.

  3. mobius1ski, your attempt at parallelism aside, those two things are entirely consistent if you believe that Israel is the true Jewish homeland and everyone else is just causing problems.

  4. The issue shouldn’t be with her feeling the way she feels, or saying what she says as a person, BUT as a prominent member of the press, it was irresponsible for her to offer such a strong public opinion.

  5. Maybe what Helen Thomas meant to say is that she supports Medinat Weimar, the campaign for a Jewish state in Thuringia. If you will it, it is no dream!
    In that case she wouldn’t be anti-Semitic or even anti-Zionist, just supporting a different kind of Zionism.

  6. There’s nothing wrong with Poland or Germany NOW. In fact, both those places have better human rights records these days than Israel does. And a nicer climate.

  7. I think the most appropriate parallel is Elliot Spitzer. An illustrious career ruined by an idiotic move.

  8. And she falls victim to the “All Jews are Ashkenazi” trope, despite a significant plurality of Israel’s population being of Arab origin like herself. I don’t think she’s going to be welcome in Flatbush anytime soon. (Or even NoVA, for that matter. Or anywhere.)

  9. So sad. After such an illustrious career. She’s 89. I’m wondering if she has dementia. In my experience, after age 85, the great majority of folks (not all) lose at least some of their marbles. Not an excuse, of course, for thoughts that probably were lurking all along.

  10. Yes, but after the Holocaust, Poland was a dangerous place to be Jewish. Jews who returned to Poland were attacked and murdered. Thomas seemed to be saying that Jews should never have gone to Israel in the first place, even though there were very few places that wanted Jews.

  11. It seems like there’s a parallel between Obama’s presidency bringing out lots of heretofore hidden racists in US society, and antisemites feeling emboldened to speak more freely when Israeli misdeeds are in the news.
    Or I could be imagining it.

  12. i’m really kind of embarrassed. I’m personally a little offended by what she said, but I think I’m more offended that she lost her job over it… I mean, can’t we assume all sorts of people have a variety of crazy and bigoted ideas? We tolerate many of them in the public dialogue when it comes to racists and bigots of all forms, and this woman who reported through so many administrations (is the only white house press corps personality I’ve ever recognized) and must have done so with good merit and judgment to have achieved what she achieved. So, why now? It feels like she’s being crucified… I don’t understand why this had to come out now, and I think it paints Israel and Jews in a much darker picture in the public mind following the debacle in the sea. Especially since it happened at the end of May, why wasn’t she forced into retirement last week?
    Is it really more important to believe in the apparently sacrosanct notion that all human beings must believe in the Zionist idea than to support the freedom to speech? This wasn’t a report or a column, it was some yid’s cell phone video! I think that mobius’ point is striking. for a people with a rich history of being black listed in America to go on a web launched career lynch (is how it appears to me) is really disturbing.
    i remember being really proud when I learned that the lawyers that represented Nazi marchers in court in Skokie, IL in the late 70s were Jews. And I’m stock of born and raised Skokie yidden. I think that it is more poisonous to end peoples’ career over a personal thought than it is for that personal thought to be shared, especially if the thought isn’t shared in publication. One of my friends described her as a liability for her employer, and I hear that, but let the public decide if they want to continue to listen to her and read her. Why not let her utilize her job to write to her readers and explain her comments?
    I am perplexed by our communal actions right now…

  13. Justin, you’re being ridiculous. You’re some kind of liberal fundamentalist. the kind of callous disregard for history and inhumanity (“go back to germany and poland”) that she exhibited has no place in the washington press corps, whoever you are. if you go out to tarbus ra’ah good riddens. just as yesh koyneh olamo be’sha’ah achas, yesh oved olamo be’sha’ah achas. i guess i’m the moral fundamentalist.

  14. Helen’s reference to Germany and Poland was obviously in reference to the fact that the bulk of the Israeli establishment is Ashkenazi, that establishment being behind the actions she is angered by. Of course her comment was vulgarly insensitive to the fact that most Israelis are Sabras who can’t rightly “go home” to anywhere but Israel, but it was clearly a political statement rather than anything which can rightly be deemed bigoted. On the other hand, condemning her for what she said about Israelis while excusing those who say such things about Palestinians seems flagrantly bigoted to me.
    And yeah Justin, Jews defending the right of Nazis to put their idiocy on display warmed my heart too. It seems a lot has changed in such a short time, and sadly not for the better.

  15. Do people here defend every person who says something non-Zionist? Helen Thomas was not making an obvious reference to the Ashkenazi establishment. She is making an obvious reference to her belief that Jews should return to Germany and Poland, and everywhere else. That Jews have no right to live in any of Palestine. (Incidentally, Lieberman thinks Arabs have no right to live in the State of Israel- not the Land of Israel. Despicable, yes. But not the same.) If she is too old to know she’s being offensive, then she’s too old to report. For those who think she has her wits about her, what should our red lines be?

  16. Lost in all the uproar about Helen Thomas’ hateful remarks is that she did NOT say them in response to the Marmara boarding. She said them on May 27, 2010.

  17. Her words have no place in the White House Press Corp.
    Send her packing. Back to Lebanon, Helen!
    Lebanon, Kentucky, that is…

  18. I am shocked that Anne Culter stays on TV after her anti-Muslim comments. She too should be fired.
    But, then again, she is on Fox.

  19. I guess my point is not seeking liberal fundamentalism, and anyone who actually knows me personally and takes the time to understand my beliefs knows I am really far from being a liberal. My point is that in the United States, freedom of speech that does not incite towards violent is sacrosanct. It is perhaps one of the greatest things about the United States. Such that a Jew would defend a Nazi’s right to march in court. Not because of Jewish values, because of Democratic values. So we don’t like what Helen Thomas thinks about the Zionist idea. I’m far from Zionist, but I am offended by her notion that Jews should go back to where they came from. ME is right, Coulter should be fired, Beck should be fired, and any reporter that has an off-color or bigoted idea in their head should be fired. That’s all of them, people. The difference is that now you know Helen Thomas thinks that Jews should leave Palestine, and the rest of the NYTimes reporters you read who think the same thing will never share it. That’s justice? That’s democracy? This is NOT what democracy looks like. Her words were not made from the White House press corps, and I can only assume that after 40+ years of reporting she’s had these ideas for the whole time, and yet we just learned about them now. clearly her reporting was fine!
    so your feelings are hurt, big deal, get over it. If you’ll lambaste an experienced and decorated reporter for her personal beliefs on a political/military conflict, who are you willing to defend? Only someone who agrees with your politics or doesn’t hurt your feelings? People are bigots, it’s part of being human. You tolerate anti-gay statement, anti-immigrant statement, anti-muslim statement, anti-woman statement, but oh no, if you don’t buy into the Zionist party line, well, you’re done for. Oh, sorry, guess I’m toeing that fundamentalist line again… yup protecting freedom of thought and speech is sOOO fundamentalist…

  20. Justin- I don’t know you personally (I believe we met once), and I cannot determine how you define yourself. I, on the other hand, identify as a liberal. And I will tell you why I am not heartbroken over her resignation. You are right that freedom of speech is sacrosanct. My Israeli friends mock me for believing in it (and other civil liberties protected by the Constitution) so strongly. But there is a difference between being able to speak freely without fear of being arrested and being able to speak freely without fear of losing support, your job, etc. From what I understand, and I have never followed Hearst publications, Thomas’s views were no secret prior to this incident. If she hid them while reporting, good for her. But any reporter whose views are clear while they are reporting is not doing their job. It’s true of the left-wing reporters in Ha’aretz, and it’s true (perhaps even more so) of the right-wing reporters and just about every other Israeli publication. A reporter’s job is to report events as she sees them, not to persuade her audience to come around to her point of view.
    And I am not sure that many here tolerate anti-Muslim, anti-woman, anti-gay or anti-immigrant statements. I certainly don’t tolerate them, despite my belief that people have the right to say them.

  21. Justin- her freedom of speech was not being violated. She’s not being threatened with the law or imprisoned. She has every right to self-publish a pamphlet about why Israeli Jews should leave Israel. Or pretty much whatever else she wants.
    You don’t have the right to be an asshole in public and not face consequences. She’s a brilliant woman and an experienced journalist. She should really know better.
    Now, I’m not sure if she should have lost her job. I think that she was probably judged harsher because she’s elderly, because she’s a woman, and because Jews have more political power than other minorities. But what she said was still offensive and hurtful, and it is not a Constitutional violation for her to face the consequences of her actions.

    1. Shoshie writes:
      I think that she was probably judged harsher because she’s elderly, because she’s a woman, and because Jews have more political power than other minorities.
      If anything, I think she was judged less harshly because of her age; I’ve heard many comments along the lines of “She’s senile and doesn’t know what she’s saying.”

  22. but there are no web-based Jewishly driven career lynches against other bigots in the field of journalism, are there… If her personal views don’t effect her reporting, let her consumers decide if she should continue to have readers. If her views are known, then they are known. If her reporting has been sound for all these years, then her reporting is sound. I’m not sure what the conflict is here…

  23. Shoshie,
    Agreed! 100% But she did lose her job over it, and that seems unjust. That’s all I’m saying. Offensive and hurtful, for sure. But, like ME said, so is Anne Coulter, and like I said, so is Glenn Beck…

  24. people don’t get fired for having divisive views… they get fired for having a negative impact on the bottom line. to think that someone only gets canned when their bigotry is aimed at jews is somewhat ethnocentric, no?

  25. BZ- I agree that there’s been a lot of the senility excuse, but I think that there tends to be a special vitriol in US society that is reserved for elderly women. I’m not sure she would have “retired” had she been a young woman.
    And I totally agree that it’s wrong when people get fired for saying offensive things about group x, but not group y. But that doesn’t mean that it was bad to call out the first group at all. I really do wish that people got fired or penalized somehow for making offensive remarks about racial minorities, transpeople, women, fat people, gay people, disabled people, etc. But they frequently don’t.
    It sucks, because Helen Thomas made her name for being a serious and respected journalist. Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck, ahem, have not. And, for that, they get to say pretty much what they want without repercussion. But they’ve found people to fund their soapbox, unfortunately.

  26. Arie writes: And I am not sure that many here tolerate anti-Muslim, anti-woman, anti-gay or anti-immigrant statements. I certainly don’t tolerate them, despite my belief that people have the right to say them.
    I agree.
    Justin writes:”but there are no web-based Jewishly driven career lynches against other bigots in the field of journalism…”
    I am not sure about this at all. Many (Jewish)organizations and leaders came out strongly against Don Imus when he referred to a primarily African-American woman’s basketball team as “nappy headed hoes.”
    He was fired/resigned.
    Of course Fox hired Imas too.
    September 28, 2003: “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve.” —Rush Limbaugh, suggesting on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb got more credit than he deserved.
    Limbaugh was forces out.
    So it is not only when the bigoted comments are about Jews.

  27. ME-
    sorry, I wasn’t trying to make a generalization. I’m just saying that in this particular instance her career was ended by a web campaign that seems to source back to a Jewish website, all of the videos i’ve been sent links to are from RabbiLive.com and they call her reporting into question. Well, the video didn’t surface when the comments were made, which is when she should have been forced to retire if that is really the issue. All I’m saying is that in this particular instance Jews dragged her name through the mud until she resigned. It’s sad. Not trying to say that one can make other comments about others and always get away with it. Just that this comment was offensive, yes, but shouldn’t have turned into the debacle it was turned into.

  28. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Anyone who knows a very old person knows that very old people no longer care what people think of them, and regularly spout off their true feelings.
    The interesting thing will be to hear what the other members of the WH press corps say when they’re old.

  29. Were this 1850, and someone said “Americans should go back to England, and wherever else they came from”, would that be bigoted? Is it wrong to acknowledge the fact that the American establishment was then, and to a lesser extent continues to be, largely WASPs of English decent?
    “nappy headed hoes.”
    Yeah, spouting epithets, or lies, about some ethnic group or another is a flagrant demonstration of bigotry. However, Helen did nothing of the sort.
    I’m really disappointed to see Jon Stewert pushing the Zionist party line on this, though not surprised as I gave up on him after I saw him doing the same in regard to the flotilla. It’s a shonda, he did a great job addressing the Gaza massacre, and his interview with Anna Baltzer and Mustafa Barghouti the best discussion on Israel and Palestine I’ve ever seen on TV. I’m left to wonder exactly how much pressure was put him to provoke this change, as I’ve no doubt it was considerable. Anyway, it looks like I was right to give up on TDS the other day, chalk up another victory for the hasbra machine. 🙁

  30. Indeed- mentioning that many Jews left Poland and Germany because of the Holocaust is all part of a Zionist conspiracy. Shame on you, Jon Stewart, for not recognizing that allowing yourself to be critical of Israel does not mean you call for the dissolution of the state. Must be because I threatened you when I was in dover tzahal.

  31. Rather, mistaking her reference to Poland and Germany as an allusion to the Shoah rather than the Israeli establishment is just another Zionist delusion, as is your implication that I’d want Jon or anyone to call for the dissolution of Israel. I’d simply like everyone to stop praising Zionism as it were some golden calf and start respecting the reality of the situation, as Jon previously did. As for the pressure on him, he was no doubt subjected to massive letter writing campaigns and the like.
    In regard to your snark about threats, doubt it went that far, but I wouldn’t be shocked to find out it did. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time.

  32. I’m sorry (read: not sorry) but I have a hard time seeing Helen Thomas’s comments as unrelated to the Shoah. The current forum of seven, or whatever the hell they’re called, is made up mostly of Ashkenazi Jews born in Israel, to parentage more so from Russia/former USSR (or even pre-USSR) than Poland and of course includes one born in Moldova. Why did she say Poland and Germany? Because they were the first places that came to mind. Why were they the first places that came to mind? I guess we’ll have to disagree. But I think it’s entirely within reason to see these comments as related to the Shoah without having given in to Zionist propaganda. As for a massive letter writing campaign to Stewart, what’s wrong with that? I didn’t participate in one, and his coverage of Gaza didn’t bother me. But what’s the problem with one?

  33. “It seems like there’s a parallel between Obama’s presidency bringing out lots of heretofore hidden racists in US society, and antisemites feeling emboldened to speak more freely when Israeli misdeeds are in the news.”
    I think the better comparison is the anti-Jewish backlash in the wake of the establishment of Israel. Because all Obama had to do to bring out the ire of these hidden racists was get elected. (His subsequent trainwrecks were merely icing on the cake.)

  34. Arie,
    I understand the fact that many have a hard time understanding comments unrelated to the Shoah as such, and recently came across an article when sums up the issue well. I also understand the fact that government officials, like media personalities, are middle men between the masses and the corporate barons who run the establishment.
    As for letter writing campaigns; I’ve no trouble with them in a general sense. However, I don’t like seeing them exploited to craft graven images out of reality, which the hasbara machine does incessantly.
    If you want to see some real Jew-bashing maniacs making allusions to the Shoah and such, watch this.

  35. Kyleb- I question the helpfulness of the article. I, too, believe that a major lesson that Israel learned from the Shoah is that we need Jewish power to prevent Jewish helplessness. Of course the talkbacks on that page (one such gem: the world has great reason to hate the Jews) would only enforce that belief.
    That aside, I tend to side with Jon Stewart on this issue. Jews have left many countries for many reasons. But the reason many left Germany and Poland was antisemitism before the Shoah and of course the Shoah itself. For many, I imagine it would be quite painful to return to those places, hence the insensitivity of suggesting they be forced to return there.

  36. Arie,

    Of course the talkbacks on that page (one such gem: the world has great reason to hate the Jews) would only enforce that belief.

    Rather, your misinterpretation from of that talkback (made by a Jew no less) reinforces your misguided beliefs, as does your misinterpretation of Helen’s comment.

    …I imagine it would be quite painful to return to those places, hence the insensitivity of suggesting they be forced to return there.

    Yet Helen didn’t suggest any use of force.
    I’ve seen some try to defend Helen’s comment by suggesting was only referring to the Palestinian territories and not Israel itself. However, seeing as how she didn’t identify Israel as one of the places to “go home” to, I don’t buy such arguments, and I consider her statement utterly indefensible, as my own position on the matter is in line with her retraction:

    I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.

    Now, if only we could get all the public figures who suggest Palestinians should abandon or be forced out of their homeland to offer similar retractions. Unfortunately, I doubt that flagrant double standard will change anytime soon.

  37. Helen Thomas reminded me why I am still a Zionist. The Jews who did return to Poland and other Eastern European countries faced massacres and persecution. America was not “home” either. Very few Jews were allowed to enter America after the Holocaust. I have relatives in Israel that had no where else to go.
    Then there are the Jews from Arab countries who would face persecution in Syria, Iraq and Yemen if they returned. I have read about American Jews facing antisemitism just visiting Syria. Indeed, the tiny community in Yemen is now being forced out.
    There is still a need for Jews to have a country of our own for our own safety.

  38. Susan,
    I’m aware of the persecution during the time you mention, and many murders, but not any massacres. Can you name any specific examples of massacres in Germany or Poland after the Shoah? Regardless, you are talking about decades ago, while since then I’ve seen little evidence of bigotry against Jews in the region, and obviously many others have the same impression, as evidenced by the fact that More Jews leaving E. Europe move to Germany than Israel.
    As for the blocking of Jewish immigration to America, that is because the Zionist establishment were effective in their lobbing against Jewish immigration to anywhere but Israel/Palestine. Furthermore, that started before and continued on during the Shoah.
    In regard to Arab nations, their beef is with Zionists’ flagrant and incessant disregard for Palestinians, or anyone else that gets in their way. Granted, some conflate Zionism with Judaism to embrace bigotry against Jews who have no part in Zionism. Zionists share considerable fault in that though, as they actively work to blur any distinction between the two.
    Anyway, your arguments remind me of why I’ve never had any attraction to Zionism. Best I can tell, Israel is by far the most dangerous place in the world for Jews. Also, I don’t see that changing until the Zionist establishment relents on their conquest of what little is left of Palestine to commit to a two-state solution on the basis of international law, and peaceful solution which the vast majority of the world supports, including the entirety of the Arab League.

  39. By the way, please excuse the grammatical errors in my posts. I tend to rephrase my statements for the sake of clarity, and being dyslectic that tends to leave my writing with ridiculous errors which multiple passes of proofreading miss. If only we had an edit function here I’d correct a couple errors I noticed just after I submitted my reply, but hope others can read past those errors whatever others I might not have noticed. Please feel free to ask for clarification if there is any uncertainty as to the intent of my statements.

  40. Kyleb, There was a massacre if Jews at Jebwabne in 1941. This was during the Holocaust, but the perpetrators were Poles, not the Nazis.
    In the Polish city of Kielce, on July 4, 1946 — more than a year after the end of the war — rumors of a Jewish ritual murder triggered a pogrom in which 42 Jewish Holocaust survivors were killed. There was a belief that Jews murdered Christian children and used their blood in evil rituals that originated in the Middle Ages, but it was still believed by a large number of Poles in 1946. I can recommend two books by Jan Gross, Neighbors and Fear.
    Jewish immigration to America was blocked by antisemitism. The US did not allow Jews escaping the Holocaust to enter Israel. A boatload of Jewish children was turned back to Europe during the Holocaust. The wife of the Secretary of State said, “They are cute now, but they will grow up to be ugly Jews.” You are ignoring the antisemitism that existed in the US in the 1940s and 1950s.
    Classic western antisemitism now permeates the Arab world. Belief in conspiracy theories, belief in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, belief that Jews control America are all over the Arab and Muslim world. Ant-Zionism crosses over into antisemitism when it involves classic antisemitic stereotypes. I even read an article in a Saudi Arabian newspaper that Jews use the blood of Muslim children to make Purim pastries.

  41. Kyleb, I wanted to add that the tiny community of Jews in Yemen is under attack. They are not Zionists. They don’t think a Jewish state should be established until the Messiah comes. The last Jews left in Yemen are now forced to leave.

  42. Today, Jewschool published a post on violence in Kyrgyzstan, in central Asia. The Jewish community there, numbering 2000, has historically experienced little violence. Just recently, however, a shul was firebombed. Pogroms don’t need a reason to happen, they just do. And what happen then? Will France grant those 2000 Kyrgyz Jews asylum? Will French paratroopers descend on Kyrgyzstan and fight back militias to rescue those poor souls? Yeah, right. America might, owing to the influence of the Jewish community here. And if that influence ever wanes?
    There exists today a nation which can mobilize aircraft, deploy ground troops, coerce, threaten and bribe its way (as it did in Yugoslavia, paying per head) to evacuating each one of those 2000 Jews and have them resettled and back to living their lives a month from now. Imagine that. We don’t need a French or British sovereign to get laid the night before in order to make the right decision about saving Jewish lives halfway around the world. No more pleading for our lives. No more soliciting conscience and reason.
    Who could imagine, a hundred years ago, with periodic pogroms raging through my home town of Kishinev, with beatings and murders and rapes and looting, that a Jewish army would one day rise to protect our people. For all its faults and missteps, Zionism has granted our people a return to collectively shaping our history, instead of being shaped by it.
    That said, collective defense is not a warrant for Jewish self-determination; it is a consequence of it.

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